13 Rules On How To Discuss Movies Online

2 Aug
2011

PHOTO: Bartosch Salmanski

It can be overwhelming and confusing to wade into online discussions about film.  One minute you’re just saying that Grandma’s Boy makes you laugh and before you know what happened, you’re accused of being a heathen for not worshiping at the altar of Truffaut.  Here is a primer for how to participate in discussions about movies in the age of the Internet.

1) “Michael Bay is a hack.”

You’re allowed to classify his films as guilty pleasures, but only if you qualify that by stating that you know how absurd his movies are.

2) “Christopher Nolan is a god.” 

No matter how many times you’ve seen the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Frame of Mind,” you have to declare that Inception was a wholly original, mind-blowing story unlike anything that has ever been imagined.

3) “American cinema hasn’t been good since the 70s.”

Since then it’s all vapid franchises, cloying romantic comedies and banal melodramas.  If this means you have to rationalize acceptance of vapid franchises, cloying romantic comedies and banal melodramas from the 70s or deny the existence of great movies made since then, so be it.  It’s a small price to pay for honoring the daring 70s.

Side note: you are allowed to use the term, “melodrama” to disparage a dramatic movie even though that’s not what the word actually means.  It just sounds like a put-down, and that’s good enough.  Mirriam-Webster’s not the boss of you!

4) “There are no good remakes.”

John Carpenter’s The Thing is the lone exception.  If you admit preferring the remake to the original of any movie, you implicitly permit the entire Internet community to tell you how wrong you are.  This goes double if the original was a foreign film.

5) “If the critics don’t like a movie, then that means it’s probably good.”

There’s just no way that people who have seen thousands of movies and spend their waking hours studying and discussing the art form can possibly know what’s “good.”  That would be like letting the dictionary tell you how to use the word, “melodrama.”

6) “All hail the di-rec-tor.”

Yes, someone else had to develop the story and write the screenplay.  Sure, someone else had to design and build the sets, imagine and create the costumes, work out how to block, light and film each scene, perform the roles, compose the music, create the special effects and sound effects and edit the whole thing.  You can praise the work of these people if it demonstrates that you’re serious enough to know who these people are, but never in a way that appears to detract from the glory of the director.

7) “The book is always better.”

Of course, that’s assuming you’re a nerd who read the book.  Real movie fans don’t have time for books.

8) “Steven Spielberg is an overrated, heavy-handed manipulator who panders to the masses.”

Is he one of the most respected and well liked people in the industry?  Well, sure.  Has he inspired an entire generation of film-makers and fans alike?  Yeah, okay.  Has he used his celebrity to promote important social issues?  Alright.  But E.T. was as subtle as Foghorn Leghorn and that means you have to denounce him whenever possible.

9) “I don’t go to the theater anymore because of the poor behavior among the kids.” 

No one ever talked during a movie, laughed obnoxiously loud, talked to the screen, threw popcorn or came into the theater late until 2003.

10) “No movie in the last 30 years has actually deserved to win Best Picture.”

Not even Schindler’s List, which you are required to dismiss as simplistic and lazy, per the “Steven Spielberg is overrated” clause.  Otherwise, you are at risk of being branded a sheep who lets the industry tell you what’s good.

11) “The Criterion Collection is only for pretentious snobs.”

Because the Criterion Collection rarely features any contemporary American film with any mainstream exposure, it can only exist for elitists.  There’s just no way that The Seventh Seal is a better movie than Goodburger.  At least you don’t have to read Goodburger.

12) “The Godfather is the greatest film of all time and The Godfather, Part II is better.”

Don’t ask how that makes any sense.  In fact, don’t ask anything.  Never go against the fandom.

13) “Joel Schumacher is the greatest villain Batman ever faced.”

Never mind that Warner Brothers gave him a scant two years between release dates to make Batman & Robin, or that licensors were peering over the shoulders of the costume, set, wardrobe and prop designers during the planning stages of what was clearly meant to be a toy commercial.  The movie is evidence that Schumacher never understood Batman and was a horrible human being.  Bonus: When possible, use this as an opportunity to remind the world that “Christopher Nolan is a god.”

Pay no attention to the fact that these positions are ridiculously stupid or that they contradict one another.  These are the accepted points of view online.  Deviate from them at your own peril.

This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Travis as minlshaw on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Derek-Armstrong/810542963 Derek Armstrong

    Nice, Travis. Funny stuff.

    Because I want to engage this post beyond that generic (but well-deserved) praise, I will say that I feel for those people (myself included) who praise the director simply because it’s way too much of a hassle to really credit the correct person — if only because it’s sometimes actually difficult to figure out who should be praised. Film is such a collaborative medium that I think it has become a useful shorthand to allow a director to have authorship over a film. His/her name is last in the credits, after all.

    The reason I’m okay with this: While all those other people played indispensable roles, I like to think of the director as the gatekeeper who gave his/her okay to those other contributions, or perhaps tweaked them to make them just so. And I do fully understand that it’s an oversimplification, and there are some directors who are far less responsible for the success of their films than the screenwriters, actors or set designers, but if there is any generalization we can grudgingly accept when discussing film quickly and without getting bogged down by details, I think it’s the idea of director as author of the film.

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      It just amuses me, Derek, whenever I read people praise the director and their evidence amounts to crediting him or her for someone else’s work.  You’re absolutely right that the director has final say, but it makes me laugh whenever casual fans whose only understanding of how movies are made comes from behind-the-scenes bonus features on DVDs and magazine articles tout their ability to namedrop directors as proof that they’re informed, knowledgeable fans.

      Mind you, I’m not trying to diminish directors in the least; being a director was second to being a writer on my Fantasy Jobs list.  I included that rule here, however, to take a jab at online fans who pride themselves on knowing directors by name and think they’re experts on film-making.  It’s like they know the names in the credits are important and overlooked by casual viewers, but even they seem to gloss over most of the credits.
      For instance, look at the Academy Awards database and it becomes very clear that Cedric Gibbons was one of the most important guys in the business during the 40s and 50s.  The lion’s share of Art Direction awards of that era bear his name.  Yet I suspect that you’re far more likely to read remarks praising the various directors for whom he worked for the look of those films.

  • Anonymous

    #1 The first two Transformers movies aren’t so bad.  I haven’t seen the third. 

    #2 Christopher Nolan is OK.

    #3 Well, there was a lot of creative freedom back then for a while.  Movies are still good these days, but not as wild.

    How are you supposed to use “melodrama”?  I looked it up, and it’s basically what I thought it meant.

    #4 That is too sweeping a statement, I agree.  Some suck, some don’t.

    #5 Critics watch and analyze a lot of movies.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have good taste.  Knowledge, yes.  Good taste… maybe not.

    #6 I don’t have that problem.  If the costume designer picks a good outfit for an actress, I’m often content.

    #7 Don’t read fiction, generally.  So I’ll never know.  Except for in the case of Memoirs of a Geisha.  The book was better.

    #8 The masses like to be manipulated, so it works out for him.

    #9 Don’t usually have this problem, but I tend to see matinees.

    #10  I don’t pay attention to the Oscars anymore.  I just don’t care.

    #11 Criterion has so many movies that there’s a special kind of pretentiousness available for each individual’s needs.

    #12 The Godfather I & II aren’t bad.  Not an huge fan.

    #13 Did he come up with the nipple idea?

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      I think maybe you’ve given this post a little too much thought, Chad.  These are hyperbolic remarks frequently encountered in online discussions, nothing more.

      As for the melodrama, it was a form of entertainment that was marked by exaggeration…but did so deliberately for effect.  Instead, it is now used blindly to describe anything that doesn’t seem subtle.

      Nearly any drama starring Robin Williams is often said to be a melodrama, when what is more accurate is to say that Williams is a melodramatic actor in what is generally a regular drama. Patch Adams is a good example of this, as is Jakob the Liar.  Neither movie is particularly exaggerated outside of Williams’s performances.  Yet, the term is applied broadly to the entire film as though the entire production is exaggerated when that is clearly not the case.

      For a true melodrama, you have go back several decades to see films made at a time when stage performing was still the standard for film performances.  There haven’t been very many true melodramas in quite some time.

    • Anonymous

      Articles like this offer the opportunity to gauge where I stand on things.  I was answering it just from my perspective, to determine if I’m actually guilty of the above offenses.

      I like to watch Joan Crawford and Douglas Sirk films, so I’m hip to what old school melodrama is. But I see what you’re saying.   

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      I actually, briefly, considered presenting this in the context of asking how guilty each of us might be of these, but decided that might make it a little harder to get into for more casual readers.

      As for melodramas, I suspect I don’t need to tell you how unaware most contemporary movie watchers are of the Crawford/Sirk era.  The term “melodrama” seems to have far outlasted the actual style, which is all but extinct save for specific acting choices made from time to time, or some lines of dialog written by people who either do not trust their audience to pick up on subtlety, or lack it themselves.

  • Pingback: 13 Rules On How To Discuss Movies Online | Flickchart: The Blog « Filme Gratis

  • Tory

    I know these are all for fun and they aren’t meant to be taken too seriously, but #9 is actually pretty damn close to the truth. Obviously, people DID talk, throw popcorn, and arrive late for movies before 2003. But they didn’t text, browse Facebook, answer their phones, or go to the movies to be seen rather than to see. Movie audiences have most definitely taken a wrong turn over the last 10 years or so. They’re terrible. This isn’t meant to be an attack on you or anything, just thinking out loud like Chad above me.

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      Consider, though, the origin of the term, “peanut gallery.”  It was an entire section of the cheapest seats in a theater, whose occupants were known for rowdy, disruptive behavior.  Most famously, they were known to throw peanuts throughout the performance either to display their dissatisfaction or boredom during the show.

      Mind you, this was during the vaudeville era…the show was put on by live stage performers, not a projection on a screen!

      My point is, we’ve always had disruptive people at shows.  We think that our era is unique because now people are using phones in theaters, but the truth is that the only reason no one used them in theaters before is because they were unavailable.  I guarantee you that if you handed cell phones with 4G connections to the ruffians in the peanut gallery, they would have uploaded videos to YouTube of them throwing peanuts at the stage performers.

      Also, I suggest tracking down the memoirs of Gluckl of Hamelin.  She was a Jewish woman who lived between 1646-1724.  Frequently in her memoirs, she goes off on a rant about how ungrateful, undisciplined and hopeless her children and their entire generation are.  It made me laugh, because of course we grew up hearing the same thing about us, and we hear the same thing said about the youth of today.

      There’s a myth that we were once a disciplined, civilized people and that we’ve become corrupt in the last 60 years.  It started with blue jeans and baseball caps replacing trousers and fedoras and now we’re all decadent heathens or some such.  Nonsense, says I, and I’ve studied enough history to know I’m right.

      Take solace, though, in knowing that there were bound to be older people in the theater when you were younger who disparaged at what you represented.

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      Consider, though, the origin of the term, “peanut gallery.”  It was an entire section of the cheapest seats in a theater, whose occupants were known for rowdy, disruptive behavior.  Most famously, they were known to throw peanuts throughout the performance either to display their dissatisfaction or boredom during the show.

      Mind you, this was during the vaudeville era…the show was put on by live stage performers, not a projection on a screen!

      My point is, we’ve always had disruptive people at shows.  We think that our era is unique because now people are using phones in theaters, but the truth is that the only reason no one used them in theaters before is because they were unavailable.  I guarantee you that if you handed cell phones with 4G connections to the ruffians in the peanut gallery, they would have uploaded videos to YouTube of them throwing peanuts at the stage performers.

      Also, I suggest tracking down the memoirs of Gluckel of Hamelin.  She was a Jewish woman who lived between 1646-1724.  Frequently in her memoirs, she goes off on a rant about how ungrateful, undisciplined and hopeless her children and their entire generation are.  It made me laugh, because of course we grew up hearing the same thing about us, and we hear the same thing said about the youth of today.

      There’s a myth that we were once a disciplined, civilized people and that we’ve become corrupt in the last 60 years.  It started with blue jeans and baseball caps replacing trousers and fedoras and now we’re all decadent heathens or some such.  Nonsense, says I, and I’ve studied enough history to know I’m right.

      Take solace, though, in knowing that there were bound to be older people in the theater when you were younger who disparaged at what you represented.

  • http://nevermindpopfilm.blogspot.com Fitz

    In retrospect I think Burton’s Batman Returns may be worse than anything Schumacher did. I know I’m going to be flamed, but ‘Forever’ and Batman and Robin are at least fun, ‘Returns’ is like having a nightmare with good actors.

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      I’ve always been split on Batman Returns.  I like Keaton as Bruce Wayne and as Batman, and I loved Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle and as Catwoman.  On the other hand, I hated Danny DeVito’s Penguin and feel that Christopher Walken was wasted as Max Shrek.  The Penguin’s dialog was actually pretty good, but…De…Vito’s…slowwwww…deliv…ery…just killed most of the lines for me.  And what was up with him running around in bleak, gray pajamas for half the movie?  Who the hell wanted to see that?

      Back to the point you raise, though, I love Batman Forever; always have.  And while I know what I don’t like about Batman & Robin, I’m in agreement with you: it may fail, but it clearly tried to be fun and in some ways it succeeded at that.  I really liked the stuff with Alicia Silverstone as Barbara Wilson/Batgirl–though I’m a bit biased as someone who always liked Batgirl.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Derek-Armstrong/810542963 Derek Armstrong

      Travis, your comment about the peanut gallery uploading themselves up to Youtube made me LOL, and I loathe using that acronym. So I must have really LOL’d in order to use it.

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      Ha!  Nice.  I’ll put that in the “win” column.

  • Anonymous

    #1. Michael Bay knows who he is as a filmmaker and has no problem making millions upon millions of dollars doing it. Good and bad don’t enter into the equation. He makes money and occasionally pulls off something entertaining once you shut your brain completely off. I recommend heavy bong usage.

    2.Christopher Nolan is not a god. He is a very talented filmmaker who happens to have really great resources to work with both in front of and behind the camera. I know at least 3 guys who can produce something just as good as INCEPTION (yes, I thought it was brilliant) but will never get it made because they don’t bl.. I mean know the right people or have had the same opportunities to get their stuff out.

    3. F*%& the 70′s. That’s right I said it. Have you ever gone through all the trashtastic wastes of film that outnumber the classics? Me either, but I have gone through enough of them on my own without anyone having to shame into it because I didn’t see the same stuff they saw. I am The Movie Whore I watch everything( A little caught up in Bleach right now though). Really you can’t give it out to any decade. I may give the 70′s the shock award for pushing the none existent limits and establishing the boundaries that we have even today and even now those are getting pushed here and there.

    4. I am inclined to agree with the remake statement however there have been some films that I have seen that were remakes and I had no idea and in keeping with the “ignorance is bliss” rule of thumb I never went back and watched the original. I never saw the original OCEAN”S ELEVEN because I don’t like Frank Sinatra, never have, never will. However I thought the one Clooney and crew did was great.

    5. Duh, big red truck. (If you don’t know the joke have some one explain it to you)

    6.To hell with the director that caves to the studio and gives a piece of trash P-13 movie that should have been R and would have been better that way and All hail the other director that makes those R movies and spit in the face of studio execs.

    7.That’s why I don’t read books.

    8. Jaws

    9. I don’t go to the theater because I remember a day when I did not have to sit through commercials. Previews I like but commercials make me a little crazy in a theater where for so many glorious years we were free from the advertisers oppression.Oh and First Look can be flushed right down the toilet with all the other ….

    10. For something to be the best you must be able to objectively scrutinize it. Film is art, art is subjective, there is no such thing as a best picture.

    11. I am checking mmmmm, ummmm, mmmmm, no I don’t care.

    12.Fan is short for fanatic. Fandom is also the mob mentality and if you are disagreeing with the masses you might just be able to automatically count yourself as more intelligent than the general populous. Of course you could be dumber as well. Be careful.

    13. Yes, he might actually be.

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      I’d like to respond to your point about commercials playing before movies.  Earlier this year, I finally got around to watching Brief Encounter, made in 1945.  The story is about a short-lived romantic affair between a suburban housewife and a doctor.  Anyway, they go to a theater for a matinee showing one afternoon.   While they conversed waiting for the movie to start, there was a commercial for a local business of some kind.

      As with my point about the behavior of audiences, I think we’ve got a skewed perception of advertisements at theaters.  They’re not a new phenomenon.

    • TheMovieWhore

      I started going to the theater in 1977 and until recent years I had enjoyed a life that knew the theater as a refuge from commercials as a part of the regular theater going experience and mix that with subpar film-making and you have exactly why I don’t go to the theater. People have been a pain in the ass in the theater since there have been theaters. I got over peoples inability to behave properly in public years ago.

  • http://myfilmviews.wordpress.com/ Nostra

    Hilarious article, loved it :)

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      Thanks!  Glad you liked it!

  • http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com movieguyjon

    I see #2 and #4 constantly online, and I used to preach #4 whenever and wherever I could. After seeing a bunch of really good remakes, I can’t really stick to my guns on #4 anymore. I still lament the frequency in which they’re made these days, but I’m more willing to give them a chance because we could very well get the next The Fugitive.

    As for #2 itself, it’s perhaps the most prevalent and the most irritating to deal with. Yes, Nolan makes really good films. But the way some people talk about him you would think Cinema starts and ends with him.

    Got quite a kick out of this article! Had to stifle the chuckles lest anyone think I wasn’t busy working. :P

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you didn’t get in trouble for stealing a look on the clock!

      One thing I would say about remakes is that we forget that remakes were common during the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Cecil B. DeMille made The Ten Commandments twice: once as a 1923 silent film, and then again as the iconic 1956 epic starring Charlton Heston, for instance.  The idea that Hollywood has resorted to remakes as evidence that there’s a dearth of original ideas is no more valid today than it would have been in 1956.

    • http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com movieguyjon

      That’s why I can’t really lament the insurgence of remakes as of late. It’s basically a big part of the industry and has been for quite some time. I’ve had to kind of shift my complaint to the quality of remakes or remaking for the sake of American audiences. I DO quite dislike the idea of foreign to American remakes, or remakes that don’t take the opportunity to do more with the material. But even then something like Psycho is an interesting phenomenon because the remake is shot-for-shot the same and yet it feels completely different than the original.

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      The subject of foreign releases brings me to an inevitable question, and that is: Given how many Spanish-speaking people live in the U.S., how long until someone has the courage to start pushing wide releases of movies made in Spanish?  I thought Pan’s Labyrinth might open the door, but so far that hasn’t been the case.

      My hope is that eventually, there will be enough of an audience here that studios will find it more convenient to just release a Spanish-language movie as is rather than to re-make it, and that once that barrier is crossed perhaps we’ll start seeing movies produced in other parts of the world released here, as is.

      I mean, we are the great melting pot of the world.  Surely, we can eventually handle seeing movies that weren’t made in English with American actors?

  • http://twitter.com/Raul_JRM Raul M. (JRM)

    1. Yes he is. A talented hack in a sense that he knows how to work a camera, but but he can’t seem to tell a good story.

    2. I agree with this statement. Which reminds me, I have to polish up my Nolan shrine in my closet.

    3. I call complete BS on this. There are many great movies in the 70s, but much of what’s produced now is even better.

    4. Lies. Liiiies!

    5. The opposite reaction for me. I stay away from a movie if critics are crapping all over it. There’s a reason for it, people.

    6. We definitely need to begin giving more credit where credit is due.

    7. Nope. While many are, such as the Harry Potter books, there are times where I actually preferred the movie adaption, such as The Mist.

    8. Aw, heeell no! I love me some Spielberg. One of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

    9. Only a part of the reasons I don’t go to the theater often. Ticket prices are increasing yearly it seems, someone’s always texting, the sound of people munching on snacks and opening others is distracting and irritating, not being able to get good seats unless I arrive super early or watch a movie much later is frustrating — the list goes on.

    10. Crazy talk. There’s been many well-deserved wins. Do I agree with all? Absolutely not.

    11. #FACT

    12. The Godfather is great. It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen. Haven’t seen The Godfather II.

    13. I don’t remember the older Batman films anymore.

    • http://travismcclain.blogspot.com Travis McClain

      Aw, come on now.  The Criterion Collection includes no less than two movies directed by that “hack” Michael Bay!

      Your reactions seem pretty much in keeping with the general responses I’ve gotten.  Some of us think some of these really are accurate, some are outrageous, we’re guilty of some and we’re sick of hearing and reading others.  Thanks for reading and I hope it made you laugh!

    • http://twitter.com/Raul_JRM Raul M. (JRM)

       It was a great article, Travis. :)